In Memoriam: Bucky Pizzarelli

The Mahwah Museum has lost a dear friend, Bucky Pizzarelli who died this week. Bucky assisted the museum on many occasions in the last decade as we built our archive on Les Paul and mounted our outstanding exhibit honoring the longtime Mahwah resident, who died in 2009.

Les was frustrated by large prestigious institutions that would not honor his requests to display a permanent interactive exhibit. In 2007, he visited the museum, liked what he saw and agreed to a long-term loan of key items from his Mahwah home where he did most of his creative work.

As we set about the task of meeting the challenge, we needed to document Les’ story and decided how to tell it in our exhibit space.  I knew of his most outstanding achievements.  But I was interested in knowing more about the man and asked who could I talk to for this story.  One name I was given was Bucky Pizzarelli.

I called his home which was near the museum, explained to him who I was and what I needed. I asked if he would come to the museum to hear more about our project and tell me stories about Les.  He said, as always when I called him over the years, of course. The following week he came and agreed to a video taped interview. Thus, began a decade long friendship that I will always cherish. Whenever I was with him or saw him on stage, he was always the same: smiling and obviously enjoying what he was doing.

When we planned our opening of the Les Paul Exhibit in September 2011, we wanted to pay tribute to Les Paul as well as raise much needed funds for our museum.  We planned a gala at Ramapo College and arranged for Lou Pallo and the Les Paul Trio to play including Bucky and Ed Laub. We held it at the Sharpe Theatre at Ramapo College. The capacity crowd was entertained in a special way by these two longtime friends of Les: Bucky and Lou.

As I arranged these events and others with Bucky, I told him, embarrassingly, that we had very little money, and could only offer a token honorarium.

He had no problem with this arrangement.

Other times that Bucky assisted us was in giving Galley talks which we recorded for our archive. With his student and long-time partner Ed Laub, he interspersed stories of Les with Les’ music. Afterwards he took questions from the standing room only crowd packed into our exhibit space.  All left with smiles on their faces.

One example of Bucky’s generosity was when I asked if he would fill in as part of a package a young guitar student had won at a New York Gala. The prize was playing our guitars with the aid of a professional guitar player. When the organizers had problems finding a guitar player to sit with the winner, I volunteered to ask Bucky to help us. He did and I will always remember the joy on that young man’s face as he played with Bucky.

Bucky is will be missed by his many friends at the Mahwah Museum and his friends who attended our galley talks, lectures, and musical events over the years.  The museum will plan a special memorial for Bucky in the Fall where we will use some of our recording of past events to tell party of his story.

The Mahwah Museum owes you a special debt Bucky. We could not have achieved what we have done without you. Rest in peace dear friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *